The job of a defender

In 1989 I coached a U10G team, Hat Tricks 80. I made them a one page handout on individual defending tactics that read:

  • No get
  • No turn
  • No move
  • No shoot

This was easy enough to memorize and to teach as the basis for an individual marking-based defence that we used in the first year before moving on to team oriented defence.

Teaching “no get” is easy at U9/U10 in the context of little games that kids can play 1v1, they like to push and chase. The hardest part is giving the defender a natural feel when to hold and when to step in front of the opponent.

You could structure a defending practice session around the drills below. There are many other exercises for this in use, this is just one example.

1. Partners with ball and cone as server and defender. Server with ball 10 yards from cone, defender a few feet behind cone. Server with ball passes to cone, defender steps around cone to intercept pass.

2. Groups of three – server, static opponent, defender. Server passes to opponent, defender rounds defender to right then left to knock each pass away. Go about 30 seconds, change roles. Should be fairly intense.

3. Group of players outside a 10×10 grid with one cone and one defender in middle. Each player outside grid with one or two balls. Players outside take turns passing to cone. Defender in middle tries to win or deflect each ball. At first, players go in order and take their time. In second round, players pass to target cone at will, going as quickly as possible to keep defender busy.

4. Same as 2, replace target cone with target player who can move around in the middle of the grid. Defender works to deny possession.

5. Groups of 4 with two balls. Two players as servers, 10 to 15 yards apart. Two other players as attacker and defender. Attacker works from end to end to receive ball to feet, defender works to deny ball.

6. Game with target player/servers in 10×20 grid. Four target player/servers with balls serve from outside ends of grid, two target player/servers at each end of 10×20 grid. Two v two in middle, red v blue. In middle, two red players try to receive a ball from a server, turn, and play ball to target player at opposite end to score point. Blue players oppose and try to prevent possession. After point is scored or ball is lost, teams switch roles in middle.

Blue attacks to opposite end, trying to score by receiving pass, turning, and playing to target players. Players in middle can pass to each other and also dribble after receiving pass. Change ends into middle after a few minutes.

7. Play a game 4 v 4 to cone goals, coach the topic, stop and correct, stop and compliment.